What is Sci-Fi Weekender?

Madness descends upon a quiet, seaside holiday park in northern Wales, just a short drive from Pwhelli and near Snowdonia. For three days (Thursday-Saturday, missing Sunday which I found odd for a 'Weekender' event but hey ho) all the main structures were taken over by stages, computer gaming stations, vendors, cosplayers and board gamers.

In the evenings, shows and concerts abound, merging traditional festival style performances with geek culture.

They're gearing up for their tenth year running, and you can find out more information on their website.

Who was there?

The Retro Computer Museum in Leicester had a gaming station set up where you could try out all sorts of consoles, from Atari to Commodore to PS1, and even Pong. You can find out more about them and how to support their work here.

The Galactic Knights were also out in full force, giving demonstrations and running orc boot camps for attendees. They're a cosplaying group of the highest caliber, focusing on sci-fi and fantasy primarily.

Telos Publishing, one of the event sponsors, was out in full force, with several of its authors giving talks and selling their books.

Skaro was strongly represented, with hordes of Daleks running amok. The evening was also full of talented performers, such as Area 51's dancers.

Where did we stay?

On site! As SFW takes over an entire holiday park, you never need leave the premises. There's plenty of decent accommodation, several small shops, a pub, and other restaurants to choose from.

We did pop to Pwhelli for some loo roll and a towel, which isn't included in your accommodation. So be mindful of that. No kitchen roll, either. If we could do it all over again, I probably also would have brought space heaters and draught excluders. It was brutally cold and the heaters in the flat could only do so much. The windows were so draughty that you could watch the curtains move.

All the ventilation is probably lovely during the summer, which is obviously peak time for this holiday park, but in March it makes for some rather crisp mornings.

Which characters did we cosplay?

The partner and I made a couples' cosplay as Lone Star and Princess Vespa from Spaceballs. However, as Vespa's dress is a bit short on fabric, and most of it is gauzy sheers and lace, I took a miss on trotting it out, so the partner followed suit in frozen solidarity.

Others' cosplay was absolutely amazing. The Warhammer armour was larger than life, and someone had put together a very well articulated alien-from-Alien costume. Lord of the Rings and Star Trek were well represented, and there were Doctors and Daleks in spades, though Star Trek was oddly sparse.

The level of craftsmanship was stunning, and really inspiring.

Was there anything to eat?

As mentioned above, there were several restaurants on site. Starbucks, Burger King, Papa Johns, a fish and chips shop, a full pub, and hot food counters in the mini markets made for a wide variety of choices.

We chose to make use of the full kitchen in our flat, however, and self-catered (when we weren't running the oven with the door open to provide a little extra warmth!).

Verdict:

The partner and I were a little underwhelmed, possibly by being previously spoilt in Atlanta, with its plethora of high quality, serious business cons. As some content seemed to not happen and was not well sign posted, it can be a little hard to find one's footing as a first timer. The board gaming was a little small, and the guest list wasn't the most impressive.

It also seemed to focus slightly more on the nightlife aspects, such as the DJs and concerts, which the partner and I aren't really into, being prematurely OAP in our taste in entertainment. So there wasn't a whole lot for us to do after about 6pm, which made for some chilly, early nights.

Normally for a con, this wouldn't be an issue, but SFW also lacked the sort of frantic schedule that leaves you satisfactorily worn out after a long day of panels, workshops, and speakers.

This feeling of being underwhelmed seems to so far be a trend in the UK con scene, which I've touched on previously. Again, I'm not suggesting that this sort of events management is easy, but at the same time, much smaller cons like WHOlanta, Treklanta, and CONjuration all seem to pull off a much more cohesive, jam-packed, exciting programme.

The partner and I have discussed this at length, and can't seem to pinpoint what it is that seems to take the wind out of the sails over here. If anyone had any theories, I'd love to hear them.

Go on. Try it.

Maybe start with a word. The most lovely word. Your favourite, in fact.

Describe its colours. Describe its sound. Tell us about the music it forms in your mind.

Set that paragraph into a context. A scene. A moment. A memory.

Put someone in that context. Maybe you, maybe not-you. Maybe not a person at all.

What do they do? Do they paint those palettes you created? Do they sing the music you wrote? Does their voice sound like that word? Do they reverberate with the same frequency?

What emotions do they have? Are they that of your word, or are they reactionary? What are their thoughts? Do they share your love of your word?

Think about the world they live in, a world of your word. In an instantaneous moment, it sprang forth from a seed that you cultivated. Are you not a god in this act of creation?

You have created from nothing, in defiance of all the known laws of the universe.

How mighty you are, how powerful and wise.

Carry this knowledge of your strength, your wisdom, and your vision, in a special place within you.

Draw upon it in your hour of need, and nurture it in your times of triumph. Keep it hidden, but easily accessed. The world you inhabit fears the dark, but it fears the light even more. We praise it in its absence but seek in terror to snuff it out in its presence.

Guard your light. Guard your nugget of truth. So that you can share of it with the world, linking it up to all your infinities.

social media scheduling tweetdeck

In this third instalment of my social media scheduling series, we've got another well-known contender. We've covered SocialPilot and Social Booster. Next up is TweetDeck. This review is being done with authors in mind.

Overview:

Focused purely on Twitter, this site allows you to schedule, monitor, and analyse your social media presence. It offers a clean, easy to navigate UI and just enough features to be useful without a lot of clutter you don't need.

What fired me up:

I love the UI, and the ability to search hashtags and set up columns to monitor them. It's not quite as organised or broad in scope as Hootsuite (for example, you can't have different tabs to organise your streams) but it provides more oversight than either SocialPilot or Social Booster. It was also quite easy to schedule several

What fizzled:

The obvious initial hurdle is that it's only for Twitter. If you wanted something to juggle multiple platforms, this isn't the site for you. Additionally, with their hashtag monitoring, the stream updates in real time, which means you can be reading content and it'll suddenly jump down the feed, buried by an avalanche of new tweets. A minor annoyance, but if you already have any sort of difficulty scrolling content, this isn't going to win you over.

I also wish it was a bit tidier and organisable. But that's probably more down to personal preference than anything else.

Verdict:

If you only use Twitter, this is a great way to corral everything you need. Excellent for someone that's just beginning to dive into the world of social media marketing, and needs a little help staying on top of things. However I feel it would be easy to outgrow TweetDeck and need something meatier.

getstarted

READER BEWARE: I ENJOY TALKING ABOUT MYSELF.

The Origin Story

I got my start, as so many of us did, roleplaying via instant messenger and message boards online. I started my first novel circa 2000 on the family desktop computer(it was about dragon-themed magical girls), only to have it gobbled up by an unannounced hard drive reformatting. After my father learned what had happened, he was so upset that I shortly after got my own computer, so that at least next time it wouldn't be his fault if my work were erased.

He was always a huge inspiration and encouragement to me in all of my artistic pursuits, making sure I always had the tools I needed to pursue my interests in music, art, and writing. I also owe a great deal of that creative talent to him, a very gifted musician and artist himself.

In high school, I played percussion in marching band, bass guitar in a garage band, and dabbled in drama. I also worked with our school librarian in a grassroots movement to revamp the summer reading program. We took a languishing program that offered students the choice of reading one of two dry classics over the summer, and turned it into a contemporary program that included works by new Young Adult authors, Stephen King, and Harry Potter, just to name a few. It was a huge hit, and made students dread summer reading less, which is always a success in my book. I presented the program in a speech to my entire high school, designed and drew posters for each book we'd added to the program, and gave talks on the book 1984 to rotating groups of students as part of a book fair day to drum up interest.

Rise To Power

In university, whilst pursuing a bachelor's in history and a double minor in French and English, I began branching out into tabletop RPGs, cutting my teeth on White Wolf's New World of Darkness system. From there I would end up dabbling in Dungeons & Dragons Exalted, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space, Firefly, and After The Bomb, as well as blowing my money on that quintessential cardboard crack, Magic: the Gathering. My first and foremost love, however, will always be Werewolf: The Forsaken.

When I wasn't procrastinating on homework in these noble endeavors, I worked as a one-on-one tutor. I also cut my editing teeth, helping students plan, research, and proof their papers. Here, I discovered that my strongest ally in teaching was humour. People pay attention if you tell jokes, and then you can always bait-and-switch them into learning something as well.

Before relieving my school of my presence, I managed to appear in a production of The Laramie Project, present a paper entitled 'The Futility of War Against the Intangible' at a symposium on the sociology of terror, become vice president of our local chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, and write a Valentine's Day themed story for a creative writing class that was so brutal it became legendary within the English department as 'The Screwdriver Story'.

I later went on to haunt the halls of another unfortunate institution whilst I pursued an MA in historical studies. Here, too, I tricked people into listening to me give a riveting presentation on my research. With both degrees, my dissertations were about eugenics. At the undergraduate level, I wrote about public opinion of eugenics in Germany. My master's level dissertation was a comparative analysis of eugenics in the US and UK.

Renaissance

Post-matriculation, I moved to the blasted wasteland of the American Deep South™. I commenced work at a small railway museum, where the staff stretched thin. Thus I wore a lot of hats for this institution. I ran special events, negotiated and managed film productions, and ran the library and archives with an iron fist. I also drove locomotives for our passenger operations and after hours switching operations. So I can also now say that I'm an engineer.

It is now that my writing career really starts to flourish. In addition to this, I write short stories and flash fiction on Wattpad and for submission to various literary magazines.

I attended Publish15, the Atlanta Writing Workshop, and TLC's Writer's Day. In addition, I have trawled the lectures, panels, and workshops by agents, publishers, and authors at various conventions such as CONjuration and Dragon Con.

Going Mainstream

As of 2016, I'm now back in the UK and permanently settled, both into my new country and also into my professional writing career. My first independent published piece was with Who Writes Short Shorts? and I started hosting workshops, the first of which was an introduction to poetry.

These days, you can find me amongst the throngs of people on most Twitter pitch parties, as well as participating in writing tags. It's a great opportunity to get involved with the writing community and share the darlings you didn't manage to kill.

I've also participated in regularly scheduled, round table critique groups before, and run my own. I'm available as a critique partner who will absolutely tell you when your science is bad. If you're interested in using me as an editor, beta reader, or critique partner, just drop me a line.

monthly update march 2018

Monthly update - March 2018!

We're really picking up steam now, and I think it's showing. However this monthly update is gonna be a little sparse. The fact of the matter is writing is a bit of a slow slog, and this is one of those hurry up and wait months. I'll be getting lots of feedback I imagine, and April will be jam packed with news.

I renamed the website as Ash and Feather (and explain why here), and am working on a URL migration. There may be a few minor tweaks, but don't worry, oiseaudefeu.net will redirect to the new URL, ashandfeather.com. And in other news, Ash and Feather got over 100 unique visitors last month! Woohoo!

Also, con season is upon us! I'm getting started with Sci-Fi Weekender in north Wales, immediately followed by StabCon in Southampton. I'm hoping to also hit up the Winchester Writers Festival and the Young Adult Literature Convention this summer. I went two years ago and had a blast.

I'm still looking for opportunities for freelance writing and editing, so if you like the feel of my writing, please drop me a line.

Reviews!

While the reading and thus the reviews may have slowed a little bit, I'm looking to ramp that back up, starting with The Hate U Give tomorrow.

As always, please note that my buy links in my reviews are Amazon Associate links, so if you make a purchase I may get a little kickback from that. It doesn't increase your prices, just helps to support the site.

I'm also continuing my series on social media scheduling reviews. SocialPilot and Social Booster are behind us, and up ahead lies TweetDeck.

Writing News!

This is the month I hope to start hearing back from the handful of competitions I've entered, including NYC Midnight's Short Story Competition. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get raked over the coals for missing the brief, but I'm very happy with the story I wrote. So there's that.

I bit the bullet and added a lot of content to the Writing page. It's now much more of a well-rounded portfolio showcasing my ability to easily genre-hop. This is important because more and more eyes are on this page and it's important that it's showing me at my best.

And what does all that mean?

It means COSPLAY. And hopefully more writing as I continue to put myself out there via competitions and submissions. I also have a few super secret projects in the pipelines I'm hoping will come together. And of course, if there's anything you'd like to see here, let me know!